Friday, July 01, 2005

World View and Why Steven Spielberg
Produced “Jaws” instead of “Cows”

As usual, Seth Godin has a post at his blog that makes readers stop and think -- well at least it stopped me. This one is about how what he calls "worldview" impacts marketing. He starts off with our worldview of shark attacks being overblown.

Even purple cows (an invention by Seth) would not have commanded our gut fears like we fear sharks.

Call it “worldview” or call it “perception vs. reality” as Bob Bly did in one of his recent eNewsletters. But Bly found the same analogy (sharks) as a beginning point for making some important marketing observations. Bly wrote:

**Sell perception, not reality**

If you think people are guided more by logic, truth, and reality when you market to them, rather than perception and emotion, consider these facts:

1. "Jaws" was a smash hit because it played on people's universal fear of sharks. Yet 24 times more Americans are gored to death by cattle each year than are killed by sharks.

2. People joke about George W. Bush being dumb. But at Yale, he had a better grade average than John Kerry, widely portrayed as being the more intellectual candidate.

3. In a Princeton University study, people were shown photos of rival candidates for dozens of seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Based solely on the photos, they picked the correct winner 70% of the time – demonstrating that voters are less rational and "more shallow than we would like to believe."

Bly sourced his comments from “The Week Magazine” (6/24/05, p. 5, 19).

Instead of fighting the perception, George Bush let the worldview of John Kerry as smarter prevail. Bush even took advantage of this by lulling his competitors into sleep until it was too late to recover.

Another worldview that many marketers must content with is that products from large, global public companies are superior to those from smaller, privately-held companies – even when these private companies have better financials than the big boys. Is bigger better? If so, is even bigger better than bigger? And when is bigger too big? The facts will show that the big public companies struggle to deliver shareholder value compared to mid-market companies, but the worldview is that it is safer to buy from them.

Another worldview that I find strange is that we should all adapt proven best practices. If we all use the same processes to make the stuff we sell, we will all eventually be even more commodity-like than we are today. It is our internal processes that truly define our company from the competition. We buy expensive CRM software with these best practices hardwired into them … eventually our marketing will look like the marketing done by everyone else using that CRM software. But the worldview remains that such software is superior because it delivers best practices.

Doe worldview just reduce us to lemmings leaping off the cliff?

Marketers continue with the prevailing company-centric messages instead of contextually relevant content. I rant and rave against this prevailing attitude on this blog but despite the logic of focusing on customer needs, most companies continue the same old worldview that features and benefits will win the war.

Does it make sense to market against prevailing perceptions? Well, George Bush did it by taking advantage of the perception with an end-run. What other ways can we marketers overcome perceptions that run counter to our positions?


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